Hong Kong

Short history

Initially established as a British colony in 1841 following the Qing dynasty’s cession of Hong Kong Island, Hong Kong’s territory expanded to the Kowloon Peninsula in 1860. The acquisition of the New Territories through a lease in 1898 further extended its area. This period of colonial expansion set the stage for Hong Kong’s development into a trading port, known historically as “fragrant harbor” or “incense harbor,” indicative of its trading significance.

World War II saw a temporary but impactful shift in control, as Hong Kong was occupied by Japan, before being returned to British oversight post-war. The culmination of its colonial narrative arrived in 1997 when Hong Kong was handed over to China, ushering in the “one country, two systems” principle. This framework preserved Hong Kong’s separate governing and economic systems, making it a significant global financial center and commercial port.

Geography

Hong Kong, located on the southeastern coast of China, encompasses a territory of 1,104 square kilometers. This special administrative region is geographically diverse, featuring both rolling hills and rugged terrain, which influences its urban layout. The core urban area is concentrated on Hong Kong Island and the Kowloon Peninsula, where space constraints have led to the development of one of the World’s most iconic skylines, characterized by dense clusters of skyscrapers.

The territory’s climate is subtropical, with hot, humid summers and mild, dry winters. This climate type contributes to its green landscapes and the preservation of large expanses of countryside, in contrast to its highly urbanized areas. Regarding its urban layout, Hong Kong is renowned for its efficient and extensive public transportation network, which seamlessly integrates land, sea, and air travel, reflecting the city’s status as a major financial center and commercial port. The city’s geographical and climatic conditions have played a crucial role in shaping its development and culture, making it a unique fusion of Eastern and Western influences.

Population

Hong Kong is home to approximately 7.4 million people. The majority of Hong Kong’s inhabitants are of Chinese descent, contributing to the dominant culture, language, and traditions rooted in Han Chinese heritage. Cantonese, a Chinese dialect, is the most widely spoken language, while English, due to the colonial history, is also an official language and widely used in business and education.

Religion in Hong Kong is diverse, with Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism playing important roles in the daily lives of many residents. Christianity also has a presence, a legacy of British colonial rule. This melting pot of cultures and religions reflects in the city’s festivals, culinary diversity, and everyday life, making Hong Kong’s population unique in its composition and outlook. Despite the high living standards indicated by the high Human Development Index, the region grapples with challenges such as income inequality and housing shortages.

Main sights

  • Victoria Peak: Offering panoramic views of Hong Kong’s skyline and Victoria Harbor, Victoria Peak is a must-visit, especially at night.
  • Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade: Stretching along the waterfront, the promenade provides an incredible view of the iconic Hong Kong Island skyline, featuring the Symphony of Lights show in the evenings.
  • Lantau Island: Home to the Tian Tan Buddha (Big Buddha), a massive bronze Buddha statue, and Polin Monastery. It’s a serene getaway with hiking trails, cable car rides, and cultural experiences.
  • Temple Street Night Market: A street bazaar known for its atmosphere, street food, and a wide spectrum of goods.
  • Hong Kong Disneyland: A magical destination for families and Disney fans, offering enchanting encounters with beloved characters, thrilling rides, and entertainment.
  • Ocean Park: An oceanarium, marine mammal park, and amusement park rolled into one, providing educational and entertaining experiences, highlighting conservation efforts alongside fun rides and animal exhibits.
  • The Hong Kong Museum of History: A place with extensive collections and exhibitions on the region’s natural history, archaeology, and culture.

Food

  • Dim Sum: A variety of small, bite-sized dishes traditionally served in bamboo steamers. Popular selections include shrimp dumplings (har gow), pork dumplings (siu mai), and barbecue pork buns (char siu bao).
  • Roast Goose: A succulent, roasted goose dish, often seasoned with a blend of spices and served with plum sauce. This dish is known for its crispy skin and tender meat.
  • Egg Tarts: Influenced by British and Portuguese custard tarts, the Hong Kong egg tart features a buttery, flaky pastry shell filled with a rich and smooth egg custard.
  • Wonton Noodles: A comforting bowl of thin egg noodles served in broth with shrimp or pork wontons. The dish is often garnished with leafy vegetables and scallions.
  • Milk Tea: A part of Hong Kong’s culinary identity, this tea is made from Ceylon tea mixed with evaporated or condensed milk. It’s a staple companion to many meals or enjoyed as a stand-alone beverage.

Fun facts

  • Hong Kong is home to one of the world’s longest outdoor covered escalator systems, the Central-Mid-Levels escalator, which spans over 800 meters.
  • Despite its compact size, Hong Kong has more skyscrapers above 150 meters than any other city in the world, making its skyline one of the most iconic.
  • The Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge is the world’s longest sea crossing, measuring approximately 55 kilometers (34 miles) long, including a significant underwater tunnel segment.
  • Hong Kong Disneyland, which opened in 2005, incorporates feng shui principles into its design and construction, blending Disney magic with traditional Chinese elements.